Skip to main content

Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

The Many Options of Neni’s Soap Shop

Nov 27, 2017 11:00AM ● By Jordan Venema

Keepin' It Clean

December 2017
Story by Jordan Venema
Photos by Monica Fatica

Marleny Angulo admits that she’s not a DIY kind of person, and she’s never really gotten into hobbies.

“I’ve never been crafty,” she says. “Just basic stuff like Play-Doh and finger painting with kids, but a hobby? No. I’ve tried several things: scrapbooking, gardening, but nothing clicked until I made my first batch of soap. I just became obsessed. Every container I saw was a potential soap bowl.”

Angulo, a mother of five, made her first batches of soap out of necessity. Her two youngest children were sensitive to commercial soaps.

“Even when they were babies, water would irritate them, so I started buying a bunch of products for sensitive skin, especially for babies, and none of them worked,” says Angulo. “So I started buying a brand called California Baby, and that really helped.”

Inspired by California Baby, Angulo learned the product had begun in the founder’s home. It was a light bulb moment. “I thought, huh, that’s interesting. I never thought about anyone making soap in their kitchen. So I started researching, reading books, watching YouTube videos, and finally worked up the nerve to make my own small batch.”

She instantly fell in love with the process.

“When you pour the lye into the oils and it starts to combine – the word is saponify, to make soap – it sounds kind of lame, but it was magical.” 

For anybody who has seen the soap-making process, it’s easy to see why. As the lye mixes with the oils, its colors swirl and look almost like taffy.

Angulo became an addict, making so much soap that she was giving it away “pretty much to anyone that would try it.” She jokes that some people even thought she was losing her mind. “A little bit, yeah. My older brother made fun of me all the time. He said I was turning into a hippie.” 

It was a slippery slope, or slippery soap, so to say. The hobby took over, first her time, and then the closet.

“Within a week, I had bought oils online and made another batch, and another, and another until I had a closet full of soap. My husband was like, where are we going to keep our clothes?”

So Angulo’s husband recommended she start a business. In 2014, she officially launched Neni’s Soaps.

“Neni is something my younger brother used to call me because he couldn’t spell my name. He passed away almost 11 years ago, so I named my company Neni’s, kind of like in memory of him.”

In addition to making soaps out of her Hanford home, Angulo also makes bath bombs and scrubs with body butters. Angulo’s husband may have hoped to get his closet back, but business only increased. They would even buy a home with a room dedicated to Angulo’s craft. With so much soap in the home, the Angulos could even consider encouraging their kids to get dirty.

“Seriously,” Angulo says with a laugh. “Go play in the mud.”

But her products aren’t just about cleaning the body. They’re also a treat, and especially the bath bombs, which currently have between 15 and 18 different fragrances.

“They’re my best sellers, and I always say I’ll narrow the options down, but…” Angulo trails off.

People can be overwhelmed by choices, but Angulo does love to experiment. “I’m always buying new fragrances, much to my husband’s annoyance,” she says.

Vanilla and Lavender Chamomile are popular scents, says Angulo, as well as Shave and a Haircut, whose scent she describes like walking into a barbershop.

There is also Charcoal and Tea Tree – “yeah, there’s a lot of them,” she says.

Of those scents, Charcoal and Shave and a Haircut are proving that specialty soaps aren’t gender specific. 

“I am thinking of introducing a few scents for men,” muses Angulo, “and I am probably going to do a little soap and bath bomb and lotion set that’s specifically for men over the holidays.”

Neni’s Soaps bath bombs range from 3.5 ounces to 6.5 ounces in size, and cost $4 to $6. She charges $7.50 for most bars of soap, which can be purchased online through her Etsy shop.

As for Angulo’s favorite scents, she says it’s hard to choose.

“Currently I’m in love with Pink Grapefruit, but other times my favorite is the Rose Quartz or Milk and Honey, but sometimes I can have up to six different bars in my shower,” she says.

As for her husband, “he pretty much gets whatever is there.” Although, Angulo adds with a laugh, “I add glitter to a few soaps and some days he’ll grab it and go sparkly to work. I’m sure he gets made fun of occasionally.”

One thing is for sure – nobody in the Angulo home is getting made fun of for the way they smell.

Neni’s Soap 

Find them on Facebook and Instagram